LST–2 days of testing

Tuesday and Wednesday were the days of my LST which seemed to come around pretty damned quick.  In the space of a couple of weeks I have gone from zero flying time on a Q400 to taking a series of flying tests that will allow the CAA to stamp my licence with a type-rating.

The LST is designed to test knowledge of normal procedures, abnormal procedures and emergencies.  No matter which plane I will fly throughout my career, I will have to complete one of these tests every year and they will all follow a similar format.  I say similar, because there is no prescriptive way of doing things, each examiner may have his own way of mixing the tests up and can pick and choose from a list of abnormal and emergency procedures.  Some however, are mandatory and these are the same as on my CPL/IR skills tests which are:  Non-precision approach, single-engine approach, single-engine go-around, holding at a beacon, engine failure/fire after take-off.  Additionally the tests on the Q400 include a raw-data ILS where no flight-director or autopilot can be used, this is actually relatively easy for a student fresh out of a CPL/IR because that is the only type of approach they have ever flown.

DAY 1

We headed over to the Training Centre for 9am for our briefing.  This was a mixture between training and CAA script.  Supposedly, the LST is supposed to be a learning experience and enhance everyone as pilots, however it simply cannot escape the fact that the word “Test” is part of the acronym and therefore one must treat everything as pass/fail and do their utmost to pass all sections.

For the briefing, we were given our route – it would be Dusseldorf-Brussels-Dusseldorf – and asked how much fuel we would want to take from the PLOG.  We quickly calculated that 2000kg would be about right considering that something going wrong and requiring a hold or a diversion was a 100% certainty.

I was volunteered to go first, which in a way I wanted to get it out of the way.  However, we soon found out that the format was nothing like we had expected.  We thought that I would be flying to Brussels, all manner of things go wrong and scrape into Brussels after a single-engine go-around.  Instead, the flight was almost uneventful and this caught us out because we suddenly had to prepare for an approach on a really short leg to Brussels.  I say uneventful, on the SID climb out of Dusseldorf I was given a TCAS resolution “Traffic, adjust vertical speed, adjust”.  This means I need to reduce my rate of climb, so I disconnected the autopilot but there was no noise to confirm the disconnection, I pressed the disconnect button a few times and then checked the annunciator which told me the Autopilot had disconnected.  By this time a few seconds had passed and I was now faced with a green zone, then a red zone, then a green zone.  This confused me because what the TCAS was saying was that I could climb or descend, about another 2 seconds later the TCAS changed its resolution “descend-descend” and with this a cut the power and pushed the nose down hard because the resolution was showing a 4000fpm descent required.  The examiner wanted me to repeat this because he did not see the conflicting dual-green zone information given by the TCAS which caused me to hesitate. 

TCAS adjust vertical speed 

The picture above shows the green/red zones for a TCAS RA.  One should adjust the aircraft to be in the green zone, in the above example one should reduce their vertical climb to less than 1000fpm.  My TCAS RA showed two green zones – one for descend and one for climb.

Once at Brussels my partner and I were asked to swap seats, this was unexpected as we both thought that I would be flying for the first 2 hours and we had not done any real emergency drills yet.  The reason that we had to swap seats is that we were both First Officers and hence any Pilot in Command must be from the right hand seat.  This meant that during our training and consequently during the LST, we have had to learn both the role of the First Officer for when we are Pilot Flying and the role of the Captain for when we are Pilot Non-Flying.  I would not get into the right hand seat again during the first day, so my plan of getting all the emergency drills done on day one was totally scuppered.

The first day took much much longer than expected, I think this was due to the number of tests that we had crammed into the day, this also meant that Day 2 was not going to last a mere hour because I had all of my testing to do, followed by some Unusual Attitude recoveries, then some visual circuits and finally our Category II landing test to enable us to fly in Low Visibility Procedures.  By the end of Day 1 I was feeling pretty tired and was not looking forward to the prospect of doing it all over again. 

When I got back to the hotel I decided to go for a run to clear my head from the day, I headed off down the river out of Exeter and past the locks, it was about 10k I ran and I may have done it a bit too quick because I didn’t feel great when I got back.  I need to go to a running shop and get fitted for some new running trainers too, the ones I am using are worn out despite looking quite new, they are rubbing my instep and my heel pretty bad and causing blisters after about 8km.  I have been doing quite a bit of running over the past few weeks because bringing my bike to Exeter and gallivanting all over the country with it is a real pain, plus the weather has been dreadful so I would only be returning to my hotel room piss wet and having to wash everything.

DAY 2

We were in briefing at the same time again.  I was to be up first as pilot flying this morning and unlucky for me, it was literally straight out of Brussels and into an Engine Failure After Take-off (EFATO).  It didn’t prove to be any problem, but I was hoping he would ease me into things at least.  No such luck, straight from the EFATO to a single engine hold then a single-engine low approach and go-around to land before rectifying the problem and sending me out to Dusseldorf for a non-precision approach.  Frustratingly I got into a bit of a twist with the approach plate into Dusseldorf, I got the NDB beacons mixed up and programmed the departure ones and not the arrival ones on the plate, so this got me on the back foot and I had to start the briefing all over again because it quickly fell apart like a wet paper towel.

Once my ordeal was over we were repositioned to Glasgow to do some visual circuits which actually turned out to be a VOR approach with a circle to land, this is quite a high-workload approach and it is made more difficult by the fact that the simulator only has a 180degree field of vision and therefore it is impossible to see anything that passes abeam like one would be able to in a real aircraft.  The circle to land went without a hitch though and so we then went onto doing some unusual attitudes and then the examiner really caught us out by positioning the aircraft to start for a Low Visibility Procedure, but instead set off a cabin smoke warning, something we were not expecting at all and unfortunately in the chaos of trying to go through the drill we got one of the items from the memory drill mixed up with another drill that is almost identical (smoke in the cockpit).  Thinking about it now I don’t know how we forgot it, but in the heat of the moment when you put foggles on that restrict your vision it is impossible to see much more than a few centimetres in front of your face and you tend to learn drills by what your eyes can see, not what your brain remembers. 

Finally we moved onto the Cat II landings which felt a bit more sociable again and by the time we shut down to leave the simulator, we had burned up another 4 hours of testing time.  Happily the examiner told us we had passed straight away and then settled down to fill in the piles of paperwork that are required to satisfy the CAA so that our documentation can be signed off for our Type-Rating.  The examiner does give a score for the performance as well, it is based on 9 items and each item is scored 1-4 with 4 being “above company standard” and 1 being “poor/way below standard”, so the maximum score possible is 36.  My flying partner and I both came out with really good scores, although the comments written by the examiner do not give a lot of praise and seem to focus on minor items and make them sound like a dead donkey was flying.

So, LST now passed and Base Training is next!

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~ by globalste on May 10, 2012.

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